If you wind up needing a portable heater this winter, we recommend picking up the Lasko 754200 Ceramic Heater for smaller spaces or a Delonghi TRD0715T Safeheat 1500 W (here at Home Depot if Amazon is out of stock) for larger ones. Priced at $25 and $81 respectively, they proved to be the most efficient and safest portable heaters we could find after conducting more than 20 hours of research and having a PhD physicist design and perform our hardware tests.
We almost picked the Delonghi HMP1500 for larger areas because it’s a lot lighter than the oil-filled Safeheat and heats up a lot quicker, but its micathermic heating element also isn’t as good at retaining heat. As such, we can only recommend it if you’re moving it a lot over surfaces where little wheels don’t travel well such as carpet or stairs.
In a 2011 report, the National Fire Protection Association stated that “space heating poses a much higher risk of fire, death, injury, and loss per million users than central heating.” In the same report, the NFPA estimated that between 2005 and 2009, 20,580 fires were started by space heaters. To learn about the best way to safely use a space heater, I spoke with the former Fire Advisor to the Office of the Fire Commissioner for British Columbia’s Vancouver Island Region, Gary McCall. After 30 years as a firefighter and fire chief, he knows about stuff that burns other stuff.
“The first thing people need to understand is that space heaters really aren’t intended to be a primary heating source,” explains McCall. “They’re a supplementary heating source only, and my guess is that if they’re being used as a primary heating source, people will move as close to them as possible to get the maximum heat, and that’s where the danger comes in.”
McCall told me that the first and perhaps most important step in staying safe while using any portable heater is to ensure that the one you wind up buying is certified by either the CSA or the ULC (or just plain old UL in the United States). The second thing to remember? Read the heater’s manual. “They all come with manufacturer’s instructions on how to use them and how to place them,” says McCall. “A general rule of thumb would be no combustibles within three feet of the heater, but it’s also really crucial to look at the manufacturer’s instructions.”
McCall also mentioned that for space heaters, extension cords are generally the enemy. “You’ve got to be very careful with that,” says McCall. “A lot of manufacturers will tell you flat out that you shouldn’t be using the heater with an extension cord. If they’re OK to use with an extension cord, you’ve got to be sure that the cords are rated for the power that the heater’s going to use. If the cord becomes a trip hazard, people tend to maybe put them under a carpet or something like that. That can bring its own risks. There, you have a situation where the cord isn’t designed to be used in that manner.”
The different types of heaters
Safety is the most important consideration, but that actually has a lot to do with what type of heater you opt for. Space heaters can be slotted into three basic categories: radiant heaters, convection heaters and micathermic heaters, the lovechild of radiant and convection hardware.
As a rule of thumb, radiant and infrared heaters are better for heating small spaces because they heat up quickly (though the heat also dissipates quickly after you turn them off). However, they’re a bit less safe, because their heating elements are capable of reaching temperatures as high as 1,000 degrees Fahrenheit. That’s hot enough to burn just about anything, which makes them a serious fire hazard. Modern heaters have safety features like auto-shut-off switches, but these are not fail-proof. They typically rely on fans to distribute heat, which can make them a noisy-but-effective choice for heating a room.1
Convection heaters don’t need fans (but some have them). They rely on great thermal mass (provided by steel filled with oil or ceramic plates) to create convection currents that draw in cold air to heat and then push hot air back out into the room the hardware’s set up in. Ceramic heaters can heat a space quickly, just like radiant and infared heaters do, but they’re a lot safer. Unfortunately, like infrared and radiant heaters, their heat also dissapates quickly when you shut them off. Oil-filled radiators, on the other hand, retain heat well after they’ve been shut off, which makes them good for larger areas. But they take longer to heat up.2
There are also micathermic heaters, which combine elements of both of the above. They heat up faster than oil-filled convection heaters and are good for larger areas, but don’t retain heat as well.3
What to look for
When buying a heater, the first thing to consider is the space you’re using it in. According to a number of retail sources I was able to find online, depending on how well-insulated the room you want to heat is and whether or not there’s windows or doors leading outside built into the walls of the room, you’ll need between 10 and 15 watts of power per square foot. So, a 100 square foot bedroom, for example, requires at least a 1,000 watt heater to keep things toasty.
What features should you look for? Well, if it were me, I’d want the following:
Multiple heat settings. While wattage dictates the amount of heat a portable heater is capable of producing, most offer multiple heat settings that either control the amount of heat being produced, or, in the face of fan-forced heater, slow down the heater’s fan (and in turn the amount of heat being pumped out into the room).
It should be well-designed. If it has to be assembled, it should be easy to do so. If the hardware’s too heavy to easily lift, it should have built-in wheels so you don’t break your back taking it from room to room. And if it’s small and light enough to carry around your home, it should have a handle that remains cool to the touch, even if the heater’s been recently used.
It should be quiet. No one wants to listen to a heater blasting away while they watch a movie or try to sleep. The hardware you pick should be as quiet as possible.
Safety features. A heat sensor that shuts the heater down should it become dangerously hot is the bare minimum. But a tip-over switch that can turn off the heater if it senses that it has fallen on its side is a good get if you find hardware that offers it.
Oscillation. If you decide to buy a fan-forced ceramic heater, having the option to oscillate the device from side to side allows the heater spread its heat to a larger area than a stationary fan can manage. It’s not a must-have, but it’s a good get if you can manage it.
Cord management: space heaters should be easy to store when they’re not needed. Many have built-in cord management systems.
How did we pick what to test?
Here’s the thing: no one really tests space heaters extensively.
There are a lot of reviews of individual heaters, but nothing that really allows you to figure out which one is best. Of those, most aren’t from what I’d call trusted editorial sources. The closest I was able to come to anything that resembles a portable heater roundup is from Consumer Reports. They looked at 20 different portable heaters, and gave each one a rating out of 100.
Unfortunately, CR shared virtually no data on how they arrived at their decisions of how to rate their heaters. I was also able to find roundups by Good Housekeeping and This Old House—two names that have earned a lot of respect in the area of home appliance recommendations. But as with Consumer Reports, neither Good Housekeeping or This Old House offered much in the way of data. So we were left to figure out what to test on our own.
Over the course of over 20 hours of research, I found that the most common wattages for space heaters are 1,200 and 1,500 watts. Many of these will operate at lower wattages as well, but as even the most powerful space heater in the world isn’t capable of efficiently heating a 225-square-foot bedroom, I think that maximum wattage is more important than minimum wattage. But bear in mind the key word here is ‘efficiently.’ Sure, you can heat a room that size with a space heater, but it’ll be expensive to do so, and as Gary McCall pointed out earlier, portable heaters are meant for supplemental heating. Doing so could be ultimately unsafe.
With all of this in mind, I focused on finding the best ceramic heaters, oil-filled radiators and micathermic hardware I could in the 1,200 to 1,500 watt range. I started off by looking at what Consumer Reports recommended and eliminated almost everything that received a rating of less than 70 out of 100 (but included some that scored lower yet had high user reviews). Of the heaters CR tested that remained, I then got rid of any hardware that was no longer listed on its manufacturer’s homepage. I did the same thing for the heaters that Good Housekeeping looked at as well.
As part of our research for this piece, we visited a number of big box stores like Home Depot, Lowe’s and Costco, hoping to familiarize ourselves with micathermic hardware. We weren’t able to find a single micathermic heater for sale or anyone who knew what one was. Online, I found the pickings were a little better, but not by much. Amazon, for example, lists a small number of micathermic heaters online. But when I checked with the hardware manufacturers to see if they were still being made, most of them were no longer in production. DeLonghi, for example, had a number of different models on the site, but currently, they’re only producing one micathermic unit. Strange considering how many different ceramic heaters and oil-filled radiators they offer.
In short, few places seem to sell micathermic heaters, not a lot of people know about them and not a lot of them are being made. But we did test the few that we could find.
Next, I looked to some of the most popular online sites for home hardware out there—Amazon, Home Depot, Walmart, Target, Lowe’s and Costco. Between what I got from there, Good Housekeeping and Consumer Reports, I came up with a list of over 60 different heaters produced by Honeywell, Optimus, Sunbeam, Dyson, DeLonghi, Crane, Holmes, Lasko, Fusion, Royal Sovereign, Twin Star, Infralife, Impress, Vornado, Bionaire, Solarus and Sunpentown.
Thinning the herd was easy: anything that didn’t offer basic safety features like a tip-over switch or the ability to shut down to prevent overheating was nixed. Anything without ETL, CSA, UL or ULC certification? Gone. Any hardware that had poor user reviews (or in some cases, no user reviews) or was available online or in store without being listed on the manufacturer’s website was disqualified too.
In the end, I wound up with five fan-forced ceramic plate heaters in a 1,500-watt capacity (although a number of them also had the option to step down to lower wattages as well), three different 1,500-watt oil-filled radiators and two 1,500 watt micathermic panel heaters to test: the DeLonghi TRD0715T Safeheat, Dyson AM05 Hot + Cool Fan Heater, Lasko 754200 Ceramic Heater with Adjustable Thermostat, Lasko 755320 Ceramic Tower Heater with Digital Display and Remote Control, Lasko 6462 Full-Circle Warmth Ceramic Ceramic Electric Space Heater, Vornado iControl, DeLonghi TRN0812T Portable Oil-Filled Radiator with Programmable Timer, DeLonghi HMP1500 Mica Panel Heater, the DeLonghi TRD40615E and the Soleus Air HM2-15R-32 Flat Panel Micathermic Heater with Remote.
We hired a physicist
When I researched portable heaters last year, I did the testing myself using methods and hardware that made sense to the Sweethome/Wirecutter core team. Throughout my research, I tried to keep my test area’s humidity and starting temperature the same as I moved on to each new piece of hardware that I was looking at. After each heater was tested, all of my data was recorded to a spreadsheet so that I could easily choose a winning piece of hardware once my tests were done. This method worked well enough, but this year, we felt we could do better.
Dr. Jim Shapiro has a Bachelor of Science in Physics from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, as well as a Masters of Science and a PhD in mathematical physics from the University of California, Los Angeles. He’s taught geophysics at Texas A&M University, worked in the petroleum industry as a geophysicist, ran his own software and consulting companies, and has authored a pair of books: one on the inner workings of hardware we use every day but often take for granted, and a second called In Your Head that explores just how far derivations can be taken mentally, free of paper and pencil or the aid of a computer.
The long and short of this is that he’s a far smarter man than I’ll ever be and the perfect choice to handle the data-intensive testing required to sort out which of the space heaters we’ve chosen to look at will make you happy. Jim came up with our testing criteria and handled all of the hands-on testing himself.
How did we test?
In order to figure out which of the 11 different heaters we ended up testing would best serve our readers, Jim tested each piece of hardware for a number of different things, including its rated wattage versus its actual wattage, maximum surface temperature (important for safety), the number of degrees Celsius each could raise the temperature of our test area in the space of an hour, number of decibels generated at a range of six feet, and the energy cost for using each heater if it were used for eight hours a day for 30 days at $0.12 per kWh (based on the average price of electricity in the united states as per a study published in 2011 by the Energy Information Administration).
We used Jim’s spare bedroom for a test space; it measures 11′ x 13′ in size. It has two outside walls with a (double-pane) window covered by an insulated shade in each wall. It’s similar to rooms most of us have in our own homes. Before he began running his tests each day, Jim waited until the late morning when his house’s temperature was stable and turned off his home’s heating system for the duration of each test. To be fair to each heater, Jim set them up close to a corner and measured the temperature at several points throughout the room and averaged readings.
In addition to all of the number-driven-data we were after, we also looked at subjective issues surrounding the hardware—what kind of heating technology is used, cord length, whether the heaters had digital or analog controls, the presence of a timer, degree settings versus heat levels, safety features, size, weight and build quality. Convenience features (like a carry handle or whether the unit had wheels and if it was a pain in the ass to put together or if it could be used right out of the box) were taken into consideration as well.
Based on their overall performance and features, we’ve chosen two to recommend to you this year: one for heating small areas and the other for larger spaces (and thanks to its silent operation, in bedrooms or maybe TV rooms too).
The best heater for small areas
First of all, it’s powerful. On the higher, 1,500-watt setting (which is the most you can pull out of a single wall outlet), the Lasko 754200 raised the temperature of our test area by 14.7 degrees Celsius (26.46 degrees Fahrenheit) in one hour’s time. This is astounding given that the second place SoleusAir HGW-308R could only raise it by 10.9 degrees Celsius (19.62 degrees Fahrenheit). There’s also a 900-watt low setting that’s good for maintaining temperatures or even smaller areas. It’s worth mentioning that Jim tested the actual wattage of the hardware and found that instead of its advertised 900/1,500 watt rating, the heater actually operated at 790/1,300. But this seems to be normal: all of the space heaters we tested operated below their rated wattage.
It’s easy to use. The 754200 is controlled by two analog dials built into the top of the heater. The first one lets you choose the power level you’re keen on using: high heat or low heat. If it’s too hot out to think about warming things up further, there’s also the option to run the 754200 as a fan, making the 754200’s $25 price tag that much more appealing. The heater’s second control knob allows for fine temperature control with 10 different temperature settings. The 754200 comes equipped with a six-foot-long power cord. That’s more than enough length for you to plug it into a wall in a small to mid-sized room and have it close enough to you to enjoy its heat without using an extension cord.
It’s safe. Despite cranking out the largest amount of heat of everything we tested, the 754200 proved to have the lowest surface operating temperature of any of the hardware we looked at. After running it for an hour straight, Jim found that the surface temperature of the heater’s outer casing topped off at 27.3 degrees Celsius (81.14 degrees Fahrenheit), making it a low risk as an ignition source and safer to leave in places where kids or pets might run the risk of coming into contact with it.
As an added bonus, the heater’s low surface temperature also makes it a cinch to pick up and move around the house even while it’s running, especially when you throw the 754200’s molded-plastic carry handle into the mix. Additionally, the 754200 comes equipped with an overheat switch that will automatically turn the hardware off should it start to run at dangerously high temperatures, or when the ambient air immediately around the heater is raised too high due to the fact that it’s being blocked by a piece of furniture, a curtain, or something else if it was knocked over while operating.
It’s small. Measuring 6″ x 7″ x 9.2″ and weighing in at a little over three pounds, it can easily fit into most areas of your home or office where you’d care to use it.
It’s got a very respectable warranty. Lasko backs its hardware with a three-year limited warranty. While this isn’t as long as the five-year warranty that Vornado hardware ships their heaters with, their hardware costs significantly more, and didn’t perform nearly as well as the $25 Lasko 754200.
While we couldn’t find any trusted editorial reviews for it, a lot of people like you and me like the Lasko 754200.
Over at Amazon, the 754200 was the most popular space heater by far on the site and earned a four-star average from 2,095 shoppers, 1,121 of which awarded the heater five stars. Home Depot shoppers awarded the 754200 4.4 out of five stars, and 91% of those who bought it there that were polled would recommend it to others. Similar levels of satisfaction could be found at Best Buy and Walmart (but don’t buy it there if you can avoid it; Walmart’s charging twice as much for it as anyone else I could find).
But it’s not perfect
For starters, while it has an overheat sensor, there’s no tip over switch to ensure that the heater turns off if it’s knocked over. That’d be a real issue if it weren’t for the fact that tipped-over heaters tend to overheat, so the hardware should switch off if it tips over anyway (but even still, never turn your back on a space heater.)
It’s kind of noisy too, producing 43 decibels of sound from a distance of six feet away (roughly the same sound level as a refrigerator when its compressor runs). But all fan-forced heaters make noise like that, and the $399 Dyson AM05, at 48 decibels, was louder. It’s also worth nothing that the 754200 only offers heating levels on its analog controls. There’s no true temperature control, but I don’t think this is a big deal. When you’re cold, turn it on or turn it up. When you’re too hot, turn it down or turn it off. There’s no timer either, but remember, this thing only costs 25 bucks. If you want or need to add a timer to the equation you can find on for under $10 on Amazon (we like this one) and the combined price of the heater and a timer are still a steal.
Finally, the Lasko 754200 doesn’t hold on to the heat it produces once it has been turned off, due to the fact that it has a relatively small thermal mass. But that’s a problem that all ceramic fan-forced heaters suffer from, so it’s hard to fault it for that.
For the price we don’t feel that you’ll be able to find a better compact heater with such a crazy-great warranty anywhere.
For larger spaces (or ones you want to keep quiet)
Was it as fast to heat our test area as the Lasko 754200? Not even close. We found that the DeLonghi was only capable of raising the temperature of our test area by 6.6 degrees (11.88 degrees Fahrenheit) in the same amount of time the Lasko 754200 heated it by 14.7 degrees (26.46 degrees Fahrenheit). But that’s because, like all oil-filled radiators, the Safeheat takes a while to get up to heat. That said, once it’s up to temperature, it’ll prove itself to be a quiet, efficient model of heating excellence.
You’ve gotta think of it in terms of a race between a tortoise and a hare. The hare might have speed on its side, but in the end, the tortoise will prove itself a force to be reckoned with. The Safeheat is less expensive to operate than the Lasko 754200, and because it’s a convection heater, it is designed to pull cold air towards it and push heated air out to replace it, so it’s able to silently warm your room without the aid of a noisy fan.
It’s powerful and easy to use. The Safeheat features three different power settings controlled by an analog control knob: 700, 800 and 1,500 watts (but its actual peak wattage proved to be 1,340). It’s also got a basic thermostat that’s controlled by a slider. Do these allow for the precise temperature control that a digital system might? No. But you’re not going to bake a cake with this thing; you’re trying to take the chill out of the air in your bedroom or maybe keep the frost out of your pipes in the basement, so it’s not a big deal.
And thanks to the Safeheat’s 24-hour analog timer switch, you can schedule the radiator to turn on or off when it best suits you.
It’s cheap to operate. When used for supplemental heating, it’ll cost you about $33 a month to run. That’s the second cheapest monthly operating cost of any of the heaters we tested. The only piece of hardware to best the Safeheat’s monthly usage cost was the DeLonghi TRN0812T, which we had to disqualify from the running due to safety concerns (which we’ll get to in a minute).
What’s more, because of the large thermal mass inside of the Safeheat, the heat it generates won’t dissipate quickly after the hardware turns off. The Safeheat will continue to radiate the energy stored up inside of the hardware’s oil reservoir, ensuring that you stay warmer for longer using less power. So while the Safeheat is designed to be used to augment your home’s pre-existing heating system, we think that between the monthly cost and the efficiency presented by its large thermal mass, if you needed to heat a modestly insulated room with nothing other than the Safeheat, you totally could.
It’s quiet. Aside from the occasional ping of expanding or contracting metal, the Safeheat doesn’t make a sound, making it a great heater to use in a bedroom at night, while watching TV, or anywhere in your home where noise is a concern.
There aren’t any editorial reviews for the Safeheat, more a function of its obscurity rather than any lack of value. But on Amazon, reviews for the Safeheat were overwhelmingly positive. The hardware earned a four-star-average review from 525 people (with over half of those writing in to give their opinion providing it with a five star rating.) Also, after submitting my results to him, Wirecutter editor Brian Lam told me that he owns a Safeheat and didn’t have any complaints about it to share. He’s smart and picky, so I’d call that a good sign that you’ll like it too.
Problems (but not dealbreakers)
As quiet and efficient as the Safeheat is, there were a few things I didn’t like about it, starting with the fact that it’s kind of a fatty.
As it weighs 24 pounds and takes up 9.1” x 13.8” x 25.2” worth of space, calling the Safeheat a ‘portable’ heater is hard to do with a straight face, but as it can be rolled around on caster wheels, its heft shouldn’t be an issue so long as you don’t need to haul it up or down a flight of stairs on a regular basis. And when you’ve got the heater where you want it, the wheels can be tucked away.
Like all oil-filled radiators, it’s kind of pokey. Like I mentioned earlier, the Safeheat was only capable of raising our test area’s temperature by 6.6 degrees (11.88 degrees Fahrenheit) in the allotted one-hour period, but this is due to the fact that it can take upwards of twenty minutes to get up to temperature. This would lead me to disallow it from the competition if it wasn’t for the fact that the heater’s large thermal mass (the oil inside of the radiator itself) continues to hold on to the heat it’s generated while running for significantly longer than a ceramic heater or a mica panel heater can manage. As such, it doesn’t need to run as often to keep things toasty warm once it’s up to temperature.
Additionally, the hardware has a built-in analog 24-hour timer, making it possible to turn the heater on and off when you want to. So you can set it to start 20 minutes before you wake and turn off 20 minutes after you go to sleep. That it’s analog gives it an edge over similar hardware, like DeLonghi’s TRD40615E, which was released this year. While the TRD40615E’s digital thermostat and timer are easy to set, the hardware has no battery in it, so as soon as you unplug it from the wall, you’ll lose your settings. If you plan on moving the heater from room to room, that’s a massive pain in the ass.
Jim also identified one more minor issue that’s kind of a bummer: the timers in all of the oil-filled radiators we looked at can’t be turned on when the built-in timer isn’t set. So, in order to use it, you’ll have to set the timer up, even if it’s just to turn on when you wake up in the morning, and off when you go to bed at night. Don’t worry though. Even with the timer set, the heater won’t run constantly. It’ll turn itself on and off throughout the day to maintain your desired temperature.
Finally, I think we should talk about the fact that Consumer Reports gave the Safeheat a lousy mark of 39 out of 100 when they reviewed it a few years back. I don’t think that their assessment of the hardware was fair. Consumer Report’s test criteria looked at how much the hardware could heat a room in 15 minutes and how well it could heat an individual sitting next to it within the same time frame. In comparison to ceramic heaters, which are designed to push out a massive amount of heat in a short amount of time, an oil-filled radiator is obviously going to come up short.
15 minutes is scarcely enough time for a heater like the TRD0715T to get up to temperature, let alone heat a room. That use case simply not what they’re designed for. But long after a ceramic heater has turned off and the heat it generated has dissipated, the TRD0715T would continue to keep you warm with the heat trapped in its thermal mass. Given how much we typically respect Consumer Report’s review and testing protocols, we were puzzled by why they’d have tested the hardware in this manner.
A lighter-but-still-effective large room alternative
The DeLonghi HMP1500 came this close to being our top pick because it’s so much lighter and more portable. In fact, at 4.58 kg (10 lbs.), it weighs 60% less than our 11.40 kg (25 lbs.) pick. That makes it a great choice for anyone that has thick carpets where the wheels on a heavy oil-filled radiator wouldn’t be able to roll, or anyone who wants to move their heater between two large spaces on different floors of a home (say between the living room and a basement rec room).
But mass is a double-edged sword
The reason the HMP1500 is so much lighter than other convection heaters is its micathermic heating element, which heats up quickly: 8.4 degrees Celsius (15.12 Fahrenheit) in the space of an hour—roughly 27% warmer than the Safeheat could manage. But it has a smaller thermal mass than the Safeheat does, so it won’t hold the heat as well as an oil-filled radiator can. This might not matter much when it’s running during the day, but having that additional radiant heat locked into the the heater’s thermal mass continue to warm your room even after you’ve turned it off is great, especially at night when you’re drifting off to sleep. It also doesn’t come with a timer, which is a bit of a let down. You could argue that you could buy yourself one to plug into the wall, but at $73, you’d like to think one would be built into it like it is with the Safeheat.
Weight and mobility aside, for an extra $11, you get a built-in timer and longer lingering radiant heat from the Safeheat. Add to this the fact that the number of companies making mica heaters seems to be shrinking and I think the smart money’s on the Safeheat as a main pick and the HMP1500 as something to suggest for people who want something that heats up fast for large areas and don’t care as much about staying power.
We also looked at the $52 Lasko 755320. It came equipped with digital controls, which is cool, but there’s no battery in the heater, so every time you unplug it you have to reprogram all of your settings. Not cool. What’s more, it only managed to raise the temperature of our test area by eight degrees Celsius in an hour. That’s pretty lame when you stop to consider the fact that it costs twice as much as the 754200 does.
The $130 Vornado iControl proved to be reasonably quiet at 38 decibels. It also had a relatively cool surface temperature of 34.4 degrees Celsius. But it was only able to raise the temperature of our test area by 8.2 degrees in a one-hour period. Given that our small area heating pick was able to best this at close to a fifth of the cost, I took it out of the running. It was, however, the most efficient heater we tested, with a monthly energy usage of $31, which is $6 less per month than the 754200, but that’s only if you’re running it 8 hours a day. It’s gonna be a while before you recoup the $100 upfront price difference in energy saved.
The same goes for the Dyson AM05 Hot. It costs as much as $499, and boasted one of the lowest monthly energy costs of the hardware we tested. But Dyson was forced to recall the heater in April due to 82 models short circuiting, overheating, and in a few cases, melting some internal parts, so you should steer clear of this one. If you have one, stop using it right away and send it back to Dyson for a free repair.
We weren’t impressed by the Lasko 6462 either. It was well-liked by the folks at Consumer Reports and is unique in the fact that it can oscillate a full 360 degrees, so you can set it up in a room and have it blow heat in every direction. But I’ve never seen anyone that sets their space heater up in the middle of a room, so I’m not sure of how useful a feature like that would really be. Additionally, Jim found that its thermometer was inaccurate and often provided higher readings that went against what his handheld testing equipment was telling him. And while its fan was capable of moving a lot of air, it still didn’t manage to heat the room up as fast as our main ceramic pick, the Lasko 754200. It also costs $35 more. Pass.
The SoleusAir HGW-308R is a Mica panel heater that costs $88 and looks promising on paper and has great performance: it’s silent, provides almost instant heat and generated a respectable 10.9-degrees-Celsius change in our test area in one hour’s time. But Jim found that its poorly-designed wheels and wall mounting system were a frustration and could potentially become a safety hazard for users.
The Vornado AVH2 costs around $88. Like the Lasko 754200, it comes with analog heat controls, a fan for pumping out heat (or moving around the cool in the summer), a handle and an overheat switch. Unlike the Lasko, it also comes packing an anti-freeze setting, so you can set it up in your house or cottage near your pipes and it’ll heat the room up every time the temperature drops low enough that there’s a risk of the pipes freezing. But that’s not reason enough to pay $63 more than you would for the Lasko hardware. (Unless you’re terrified of burst pipes, I guess. But why not just leave the $25 Lasko heater on low in your home instead?) What’s more, Jim found that the 754200 outperformed the Vornado AVH2 with a lower monthly usage cost ($33 per month versus $39), a higher hourly heating rate (the Lasko heated our test area by 14.7 degrees in an hour while the Vornado only managed 10.7 degree increase) and finally a cooler surface temperature.
The $79 DeLonghi TRN0812T is an oil-filled radiator that’s small enough to use in a bathroom or other cramped space. And it comes equipped with a GFCI-rated electrical plug, a rare safety feature to find in a space heater. Amazon users seem to like it well enough—it earned a 3.5-star average rating from the 274 people who bothered to write in and talk about it. But we think you’d be crazy to buy this thing. Jim found that the radiator’s peak surface temperature hit 127.8 degrees Celsius (over 262 degrees Fahrenheit). That’s hot enough to burn anyone who accidentally touches it and poses a significant ignition risk to flammable materials in its vicinity. No like. Additionally, at 16.8 pounds, the TRN0812T might be as light as a feather in comparison to the 25-pound Safeheat, but it’s still pretty heavy. That it doesn’t come on wheels or with a handle might make it difficult to move for some people, especially if it’s been running for a while. Who wants to grab something that hot?
We also tested the DeLonghi TRD40615E, a new $121 oil-filled radiator with digital controls that the company released earlier this year. It’s around the same size and weight as the our favorite oil-filled radiator, the DeLonghi TRD0715T Safeheat, and it comes with digital controls. But it costs five more bucks a month to run and couldn’t heat the room up as fast as the Safeheat could (the TRD40615E pushed the thermometer up by 4.2 degrees to the Safeheat’s 6.6). A two-degree difference might not be a huge if we were talking about ceramic heaters, which are designed to throw out heat almost instantly, but for hardware that already heats up slow to begin with, a two degree variance is a big deal. Strangely, the TRD40615E also had a hotter surface temperature than the winning Safeheat did: 102.2 degrees Celsius versus 94.4. Add to this the fact that the new DeLonghi hardware’s digital controls have to be reprogrammed every time you decide to unplug it and you’ll see why we feel that the less expensive, time-tested Safeheat is a better deal.
Heaters we dismissed last year
Hey, remember before when we looked at space heaters? There were a number of pieces of hardware I tested that didn’t make the grade.
I looked at the 600/1,200-watt Crane EE-6353 600/1,200-watt ceramic heater. It costs $70, is only 20″ tall, comes with a remote control, oscillates and has a built-in shutdown timer. That said, it’s more expensive to operate than the more powerful 1,500 watt TRD0715T, and I found it to be kind of top heavy, making it easy to knock over. Even with a tip-over switch, that’s a dealbreaker for me.
The 1,500-watt DeLonghi DCH1030 Safeheat was found to be a lot more stable than the Crane EE-6353 and sells for $35. But unlike the Crane, the Safeheat DCH1030 doesn’t oscillate. Plus, it costs $81 per month to operate. Compared to how energy efficient this year’s picks are, that’s insane.
I also tested the Sunpentown SH-1507 Mini Tower Heater, a Holmes HFHVP3, and Crane’s EE-6490 Space Heater. They all had hotter surface temperatures, took longer to heat the room and were all less energy efficient than the TRD0715T was.
Finally, Optimus’ $51 Electric Portable Oil-Filled Convection Radiator Heater’s was the only heater I tested last year that had a cooler surface temperature than the TRD0715T Safeheat’s. It weighed four pounds less too. Unfortunately, despite being $35 dollars cheaper to buy initially, the Optimus wasn’t able to raise the temperature of the room as quickly as the Safeheat did, and at $52 a month to operate, it’s not as good a deal as the DeLonghi radiator in the long run.
Wrapping it up
So there you go: after over 20 hours of research and a series of tests performed by a PhD physicist, we feel that the the best options for keeping your home a little warmer this winter are the Lasko 754200 if you want to heat a small area, and the DeLonghi TRD0715T Safeheat 1500 W Portable Oil-Filled Radiator for larger spaces or any space that could benefit from a silent heating source. And if you have thick carpet, stairs or need to move a heater between a few larger spaces, you might want to consider the DeLonghi HMP1500. All three are reasonably priced, energy efficient and will serve you well. No matter what you buy, stay warm and be safe.